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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


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A point rather orthogonal to your post, but interesting nonetheless:

It's ahistorical to say that aut is logically exclusive. Aut is generally used in situations where the disjuncts are incompatible anyway; the choice of aut versus vel is more of a pragmatic issue than a logical one.

In fact there's a fairly broad swath of the semantics literature devoted to the question of whether natural languages even have exclusive or at all. The consensus appears to be that they do not, but instead rely on pragmatics, facts about the world, or explicit "but not both"-type constructions to differentiate between inclusive and exclusive. It's an interesting topic.

Shouldn't there be commas around such a parenthetical 'or'? We're not completely happy with the first term, so we introduce an alternative one "or if you like..." might be the full construction. In that case, I think it's more idiom than a construction of logic.

If it operates on anything it operates on the terms, rather than on the states the terms represent. So you can choose one term or both terms to represent the state if it suits you better.

A Finnish woman complained to me about the third sense of "or" (the one which is sometimes expressible by "i.e.") and that's when I started using "a.k.a." oftener.

I liked Quine's idea of a word "exclor" for exclusive disjunction, but that sort of thing never catches on. I'd prefer "twexclor" to reinforce the binary aspect, since exclusive "or" doesn't behave like non-exclusive "or" in longer sequences.

Could never go along, though, with Quine on the notion that "only if" means "if...then."

It's simple!

Let "aor" denote non-exclusive disjunctions (short for "and/or").
Let "orr" denote exclusive disjunctions (following the idea of "iff").
Let "aka" denote alternative expressions.

There! No need for this "exclor" nonsense. Wasn't he one of the evil Transformers?

I usually write OR and XOR, following the electrical engineering terminology . . .

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